In this analysis, The Nation’s Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines Governor Abiola Ajimobi chances at the poll to return to the Nigerian Senate.
Four years ago, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, governor of Oyo State, made history. He broke the second term jinx, thereby becoming the first governor to be re-elected for a second term. As the second term expires on May 29, the Ibadan-born politician hopes to return to the Senate, where he served as Deputy Minority Leader between 2003 and 2007.
The poll will not be a walk over for him. His rivals are Adesoji Akanbi of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Dr. Kola Balogun of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The three major contestants are campaigning vigorously.
If Ajimobi is re-elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), he will be a ranking senator and elder statesman whose experience will assist in guiding proceedings in the Upper Chamber. He is highly respected in the APC, where his experience has been useful in mobilisation, reconciliation and crisis resolution.
When he was in the Senate, Ajimobi was not a bench warmer. As governor, he has endowed the Agodi Government House, Ibadan with honour. Ajimobi is perceived as a matured politician and a team player.
As a senator, he ploughed back to the constituency. Ajimobi established the first and the largest free vocational training centre in the history of Oyo State, offering training in computer engineering, computer operations, telephone engineering, fashion designing, hair dressing, tie and dye etc. The center has turned out over 20,000 students to date, who have secured employments in many reputable industries. The center has also been recognised and certified as a partner and training center by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF). Ajimobi also identified communities that lacked potable water in his district. He sunk boreholes. He also carried out many empowerment programmes in the district.
As governor, he enjoys tremendous goodwill. His greatest asset is maturity, which age, experience and wisdom could confer. He inherited a state in turmoil in 2011. Brigandage and violence had become the order of the day. Killings by factional drivers’ union defiled solution. Armed robbers were on the prawl in broad day light and banks were not insulated from their attacks. How to restore peace and security into a state of pandemonium where the rule of brawn had displaced the rule of law was his major priority.
Between 2011 and 2019, Ajimobi has restored sanity. Prevention, in his view, is better than cure. The starting point was the establishment of a well-equipped joint security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Burst.’ The governor also introduced the ‘Safe City’ project. Closed Circuit Television cameras were installed in many flash points. The efforts paid off. Criminals relocated from the state. Bank robbery stopped. To avert ethno-religious conflicts, the Oyo State Inter-religious/Ethnic Committee was set up to foster understanding in some heterogeneous communities.
The governor built on this achievement by establishing the Security Trust Fund that has donated multi-million naira equipment to security outfits and refurbished many grounded patrol vans. Due to security, night life was restored.
Ajimobi also fought the infrastructure battle. He was appalled by the poor environmental sanitation in Ibadan, the state capital, which earned it the unenviable sobriquet of the dirtiest state capital. The governor embarked on road construction across the state. Where necessary, flyovers were constructed. Other projects include the construction of ‘Restoration Bridge’ and dredging of rivers to avert flooding and its attendant loss of lives and property, restructuring of the solid waste management system for a cleaner and healthier environment, the initiation of the First Ibadan City Master Plan, and the Ibadan Beautification Project through the creation of green areas, parks (Temidire and Podo) and gardens (Agodi Gardens).
The governor’s attention is not diverted by the electioneering. He is still supervising the rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing roads, and the dualisation of entry roads into major towns. These include the on-going construction of 110km Ibadan Circular Road, the construction of 49.02km roads and rehabilitation of 684.12km roads by Oyo State Public Works, the activation of Ibadan City Master Plan, Ibadan Drainage Master, Ibadan Solid Waste Management Plan and Ibadan Urban Flood Management programme in conjunction with World Bank.
The Ajimobi administration has defended education in Oyo State. It has established the first technical university in the state. Owning to the provision of conducive leaning environment, the state got the best West African School Leaving result in 18 years. The School Governing Board was able to attract more than N2bn non-governmental investment in the education sector. The governor also introduced the Education Trust Fund.
The 628 secondary schools now have Governing Boards, which have injected over N2b into their infrastructure development. This is now being understudied for Southwest states. also, the introduction of Oyo State Model Education Intervention (Oyomesi) as a structured character building curriculum, the launch of the Digital Literacy Drive, Science and Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; and the professional training of teachers have been applauded. Besides, three model schools have been constructed and many secondary schools are being rehabilitated.
Youth and sports development have not been neglected. No fewer than 2,000 have benefitted from entrepreneurial training. The Permanent site of the NYSC at Agbakuta, Iseyin was inaugurated. Aslso, 5,000 were trained through the Oyo Ajumose Business Leadership programme OYO ABLE; N200m was released for youth empowerment through the Bank of Industry, and 300 artisans and tradesmen supported through the Oyo Nise Oyo Leko initiative. Government has also embarked on the estructuring, reorganization and inauguration of all sporting associations to enable them achieve the desired result and support the ‘Catch them Young’ initiative of the government, which has led to the increase in under age sporting activities.
In women development, Ajimobi has accorded priority to poverty alleviation. An important achievement is the passage a law to prohibit violence against women. Others include the training and release of grants to young persons for business in photography and video production, barbing, hand-made jewelry, computer centre operations; rehabilitation of Centre for People with Disabilities and equipped with equipment for ICT Training and shoe making with support from British American Tobacco (BAT), and educational and nutritional support for 10,514 children, including orphans, vulnerable, trafficked children.
Ajimobi has presided over an effective government. He is a lover of reforms. He has restructured the civil service for better efficiency through BVN and Biometrics verification, in addition to personnel quantity and quality audit. He established the Customary Court of Appeal to fast-track administration of justice and court decongestion. He also set up the Oyo State Multi-Door Court house and expanded the Oyo State Citizens’ Mediation Centre services to other zones. He constructed new centres in Oyo and Ogbomoso.
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